DIY: Effective preparation for IELTS Speaking


I must be clear from the very outset that a candidate simply CANNOT improve her speaking ability to a significant degree within a short span of time. Though, a limited degree of progress is surely possible with a week’s intense preparation. So, what should the test taker do to improve your speaking skill? To be a ‘Good User’ of the language - which is what Band 7 stands for - you will need to develop the following:

1. Good Oral Fluency

What is it? Oral fluency is our ability to speak fluently - never mind the odd grammatical errors - in the language under consideration. Oral fluency doesn't mean speaking quickly. It means uttering parts of a sentence - a collection of words - and pausing at the right places for the right length of time. It is the natural rhythm of speech. We all possess it and are accustomed to it. If you speak without pausing where you should, it may actually be defeating your purpose. Good oral fluency is critical if one wishes to achieve a high score in the Speaking module of the IELTS examination. Grammatical accuracy at the cost of linguistic fluency will never fetch you high bands in speaking.

2. Pronunciation

Yes, the inability to pronounce correctly will negatively affect your score. Just speak naturally and ensure that your pronunciation is free of excessive mother-tongue influence (MTI). When the test is being taken in India, the benchmark for speaking will remain the average Indian speaking in English. As long as you are audible and intelligible, pronunciation should not bother you much. And by the way, they accept both, the British as well as the American pronunciations. Just don't indulge in slang or be too 'conversational' when you are in the hot seat. Avoid the 'gonna', the 'wanna', and the rest.

3. Ability to use Synonyms

And to do so quite easily too. Thus avoiding repetition of words, phrases, and even sentence structures. IELTS- and this is true of the test as a whole - does not ask you to memorize 'difficult' words and phrases. You are not expected to digest a long list of tongue-twisting, gut-wrenching, and teeth-rattling words and expressions. On the contrary, the need of the hour is a regular use of 'uncommon' words. Rather than 'great', 'awesome' or even 'wonderful', maybe a 'pleasant' experience is a better way of putting it. Along with all this, you need to be relevant as well. Finally, your answers should sound neither curt and abrupt nor rambling and meandering.

5. Relevance

It is a general ability to address the question asked. Don't beat about the bush. Come straight to the point, and always elaborate after you have given your answer in the first few lines. The length of your answers will vary in accordance with the complexity of the questions asked. It has been generally observed that Section 1 questions are simpler than those that you will be asked in the third section. The more focused and crisp your answers, the higher you score in the Speaking module. Also, questions that are specific require a different answer than those that demand a general reaction from the candidate. 'Do you like shopping?' is qualitatively different from 'Do you think shopping as an experience during your parents' time is different from what it is now?' Your response should acknowledge this difference.

Now, I'm sure all this sounds rather daunting. Happily such is not the case. Do not bite off more than you can chew: break down the entire Speaking module into a number of small sessions. And regular practice - even as little as 20-30 minutes every day for a month or so - should do you a world of good.

Easy does it. Patience and Perseverance will inevitably lead to Perfection.